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Disabled Couple Drowning in Medical Bills Seeks Grant For Medical Debt Relief

by Kathy Alexander
(Curlew, WA, USA)

For so long all we wanted was to have good paying jobs that included benefits, to raise our children the best we could, teaching them right from wrong and to pay our bills.

We have struggled for all our lives. Nothing has come easy. My husband finally landed a good job as a mixer driver in Renton, WA.

Things were going pretty good but big city life was taking its toll on our children so in 1996 we decided that the children and I should move to the country where we have property and start building.

My husband stayed in Renton, working all week and driving to eastern Washington to help build our home. As it turned out, it was the correct decision for our children. They started doing better in school and behavior problems disappeared.

Our shack as we called it began to take shape and we settled into a workable routine. That is until November 13, 1998 when my husband was hurt on the job. He had picked up a 92-pound bag of cement and blew out his back.

He tried to work for another month but the pain was too much for him. He went to see his doctor who immediately took him off work. He has not worked a day since.

Since that day a lot has happened to his health. John has endured two back surgeries. The first one left him with permanent nerve damage causing him to not be able to tell where he puts his left foot.

That in turn put him in line for reconstructive surgery on his left ankle, twice. These surgeries were at least covered by John's employer.

Stoneway Concrete is self-insured so not only did we have to fight with L&I, but also the company's insurance company. It wasn't pleasant. We suffered a lot financially. They would cover for a while then stop, putting us on welfare.

After a while of fighting, they would start paying time loss again. We would just about get caught up on bills when they would drop him again. This went on for eight years.

John hired a lawyer to try for his social security but he was denied several times. He finally hired a lawyer who had dealings with Stoneway and won not only his social security but also a state industrial pension.

We thought we would be doing really well till we found out how much the lawyer was to get. We paid off what we could with what we had left from the back pay and started trying to live a better life.

We bought a more reliable truck and a better home. We put a water well in so we could stop hauling water. We put in for power to be brought up the mountain, which will finally be here next month. We put in a phone. We did things needed to make life less stressful.

That was almost 4 years ago. Since John is on Social Security he gets Medicare. John has chronic pain requiring large amounts of pain medications. He suffers from depression because of the constant pain.

His blood pressure is worse because of the pain. And because of all the medications he has been on and because he contracted hepatitis C, his liver is badly damaged. We found this out when he had his gall bladder removed 2 years ago.

Because of all the stress, he has had chest pains that sent him by Life Flight to Spokane and then to a cardiologist. His heart checks out fine but he does have some blockage, not enough to require heart surgery, thank goodness.

But it was another bill on top of bills we already couldn't pay. Now after seeing his back surgeon again, he is to have another back surgery scheduled this January. We have no idea how we are going to swing this one. We are tens of thousands of dollars in debt to doctors and collection agencies for doctors and hospitals.

I have no insurance on myself and can't afford supplemental insurance on John if we could even get some. I had a job making a little more than minimum wage and no benefits but lost that after the hotel was sold.

We live in a very rural part of Washington and there are very few jobs. I have had two knee surgeries myself and need another one but can't afford it so I just live with it and hope I can get through the day.

Most days I do and count my blessings. But my knee does limit what I am able to do on a job. Anything that requires a lot of standing and walking is beyond what I am capable of doing and those kinds of jobs don't usually have insurance benefits. The other types of jobs that I am qualified to do are few and far between.

So the question is, what do we do to get out of this hole we are in? We have tried to get a loan to consolidate our bills. Our credit is in ruins.

We are currently in a debt consolidation program where we pay a law company to negotiate with our creditors and pay off the bills as we save up for them.

But this is also expensive and no help for our credit. What we really need is a personal grant. One for about $45,000 would pay off all our medical bills and a few miscellaneous bills.

This would free up money to get medical insurance on both of us. If John had supplemental insurance and his Medicare insurance, we could afford for him to have his back surgery next year.

And maybe we could even afford my knee surgery when I finally can go no longer. It would also be nice to pay my property taxes and all the other bills we neglect as we juggle the bills each month.

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